The Role of Green Technology in the Sustainability of Hotels Essay

AbstractSustainability has resurfaced as a strategic consideration in the hotel industry because of pressures of dwindling resources and rising costs, worsening impact of business on the environment, and regulatory measures in support of eco-friendly business practice. Green technologies emerged as processes and tools that support the sustainability of firms by providing the means for hotels to comply with its duty on environmental protection. Green technologies also support the sustainability of hotels in terms of savings from operating cost and the accrual of a wide range of economic and non-economic benefits to firms. Hotels should consider green technology as an enabler of sustainability goals.Introduction            Hotels are not smoke emitters so eco-friendly practices developed in the hospitality industry much later than the manufacturing and similar industries (Kasim, 2006). However, environmental responsibility eventually penetrated the hospitality industry.Throughout the life of hotels— from building construction, operation, maintenance and evolution—the environmental issue is the wasteful consumption of vast amount of resources such as water and energy and accumulation of air, soil and water pollution in a built environment.

The unique service function and operations of hotel result to a stronger ecological impact when compared to other buildings used for commercial purposes. (Bohdanowicz, Simanic & Martinac, 2004)The development of the hospitality industry relies on the sustainability of the environment. This makes it crucial for hotels to take steps to address wasteful consumption of resources and pollution within its built environment. It is imperative for hotels to construct buildings, design their facilities, operate, and refurbish structures in a way that causes the least possible harm to the environment. (Straus & Gale, 2006) The environment is a core part of the hospitality industry so the protection of the environment by hotels amounts to the protection of their business.            Protection of the environment through eco-friendly practices by hotels involves a radical change in operations and a long-term impact, which makes this a sustainability-driven strategy. The link aligned environment friendly practices of hotels with sustainability strategy.

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Now, hotels developing their respective sustainability strategies necessary include eco-friendly practices as solutions to sustainability issues.            The growing concern over sustainability in the business sector led to developments in innovative environment friendly processes and tools collectively called green technology. Green technology enables the eco-friendly practices of business firms.

The paper investigated the role of green technology in supporting the sustainability of hotels.Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry            The concept of sustainability emerged in the field of natural sciences in recognition of the scarcity of natural resources and the need to rationalize usage to secure sufficient resources for future generations (Kirk, 1995). The encompassing implications of the idea of rational use of scarce resources found relevance in the entire society. As such, sustainability assumed meaning as ensuring “the continuity of every aspect of human society—environmental, social, economic and institutional” contexts […] so that it affects every feature of social organization” (Robertson, 2007, p. 127). The concern of sustainability is ensuring the continuation of the well-being of people and protection of the environment from wasteful use or destructive activities.

            Sustainability found relevance in the business setting as competitive industries needed to manage their resources efficiently and address environmental concerns to ensure that they are able to support the well-being of people and protect the environment with customer patronage and business continuity as the long-term outcomes. Although relatively recent, sustainability also achieved relevance in the hospitality industry as hotels struggled to manage multi-dimensional challenges to create and sustain competitive advantage and secure the desired outcomes.Sustainability for the hotel industry found expression from the articulation of the term, during the Earth Summit in 1992 held in Brazil, as the development of policies that attracts foreign direct investment and fosters the design of environmentally friendly technologies (Edwards, 2004). This implies the balancing of business interest with environmental responsibility as the components of sustainability. Green technology received recognition as an aspect of human society and therefore part of sustainability. In a sustainability panel of representatives from the hospitality industry, sustainability as a strategy meant addressing today’s needs without adversely affecting tomorrow’s needs (Knowles, 2008).

Addressing the challenge of sustainability in the hotel industry meant consideration of multi-dimensional factors, particularly human well-being, environmental conservation or protection, and technological optimization. Doing so ensures multi-level outcomes such as the continuity of business at the firm level by ensuring resource availability and continuity of well-being at the community level through environmental protection using innovative technology. Firms have to develop sustainability plans to ensure operating efficiency for business continuity and support the community that constitutes its market.

The core idea of sustainability is not to destroy, harm or waste. The development and enforcement of sustainability plans by hotels should lead to a number of outcomes, which also comprise the determinants of the hotel sustainability. These are:1.      Minimized pollution and rational energy and water consumption.

2.      Respect for culture and tradition.3.

      Community involvement in the hospitality economy.4.     Consideration of quality instead of quantity in terms of the visitors to tourist destinations.5.      Economic benefits redound to the community.

(Robertson, 2007)However, achieving sustainability is not an easy or simple feat because its determinants reflect the multiple interests of different stakeholder groups.In relation to environmental sustainability, there are also considerations for inclusion into the sustainability plan of hotels to ensure that they meet environmental compliance (Butler, 2008). Conflict of interests could arise as stakeholders compete for prioritization of their respective interests in the sustainability plan of hotels. As such, developing a sustainability plan involves an accurate understanding of the firm of the requirements of sustainability, building of competencies to meet these requirements in a manner that considers competing stakeholder interest, and resources to support sustainability activities.In addition, implementation also involves protracted development and continuity that requires the commitment of the management of hotels (Bohdanowicz & Martinac, 2003) However, even if sustainability planning is a tedious task, the expected outcomes are long-term and compelling because this determines the continuity or viability of hotels, firms whose future survival depends on sustainability (Butler, 2008).In planning sustainability, hotels need to consider the impact of its operation on the environment. The impact could be in terms of the following:1.      Scale and distribution of operations in a given area.

2.      Hotel demand and means of alleviating the negative effects.3.      Protection of key assets historic buildings, townscape or coastline.4.

     Contribution to other related areas such as economic development and cultural preservation. (Sharma, 2004)The emergence of these impacts reflects on the development and implementation of a sustainability plan by hotels and comprises the determinants of the sustainability of firms. The scale and distribution of hotel operations affects the particular area included so that greater scale and more widespread distribution means a stronger pull on resources and impact on the environment. This means the responsibility to engage in practices minimizing the negative impact on the area where hotels operate to achieve sustainability.

The extent of hotel demand creates pollutants in the built environment of hotels so that the greater demand for hospitality services the more should hotels develop plans addressing pollution in its built environment to support sustainability. Protection of key assets is a more obvious determinant of the continuity of hotels, especially those tied to the historic roots of buildings or geographic locations. Since the sustainability of hotels spans multidimensional aspects, the contribution of hotels to other areas such as employment or job creation also supports its sustainability.The implementation of sustainability plans involves innovative methods and tools accessible to hotels and responsive to the multi-dimensional issues including impact of operations on the environment experienced by hotels. Green technology understood as eco-friendly tools and processes or environment friendly products support the successful implementation of sustainability plans in the hospitality industry.Contributions of Green Technology to the Sustainability of the Hotel Industry            Green technology or green engineering emerged during the 1970s coinciding with the intensified environmental advocacy to take action against the high consumption of resources and the massive generation of waste. The initial focus was on the conservation of natural resources and the discovery of alternative energy sources.

Due to the public clamor, this period also led to the enactment of various legislations supporting environmental conservation and protection. The support from lawmakers spurred widespread research on technologies that could effectively address these needs. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997) The outcomes of research and technological innovation became green technology. Since then, research and technological innovation continued to improve processes and add new tools.            Green technology as a process and a collection of tools addresses four objectives, which are a) waste reduction, b) materials management, c) pollution prevention, and d) product enhancement (Billatos & Basaly, 1997).

There are processes and tools specifically targeting any one, some or all of these objectives so that the appropriate choice depends on the priority of hotels.            Waste reduction involves a number of specific and general measures. The general measure of waste reduction is the development of product design to achieve outcomes such as extended durability, which is on determinant of product quality, and the utilization of materials of lesser weight because lightweight feature of products adds to desirability (Billatos & Basaly, 1997).A specific measure of waste reduction is financial computations of reduction in budget for the procurement of material, equipment for handling waste, and labor for waste management.

Another specific measure is the economic computation of efficiency in the use of resources together with consideration of non-tangible benefits such as accuracy in the accounting of materials and greater awareness of managers and employees. The extent of reduction of waste varies since this could range from minimal to significant decrease in the volume of waste generated, capacity of landfills, and transportation needs. By benefiting the environment, economic benefits also accrue.

(Billatos & Basaly, 1997)Adopting waste management processes and tools accrues financial, economic, and environmental benefits for hotels.            Materials management has close relations with waste management but comprises a separate objective. This refers to activities intended to recover and assess materials or finished products for reuse to realize its highest possible utility value. Key to these activities is the ability to harness the full functional value of materials and product components at the least possible additional processing cost for recovery and reuse. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997)Materials management also applies to implementation of measures in handling hazardous materials to minimize possible exposure of the business to product liability. There are three sub-processes in materials management. First is design of recycling or the cost-effective manner of recovering and reusing materials.

The design provides support during the disposal stage to ensure low added cost for recovery. Second is design for disassembly encompassing the methods enabling the minimization of cost in segregating reusable materials. This leads to savings that accumulate when design interventions are made during the stages of material selection and assembly that already separates reusable materials. Third is toxics management comprised of the activities of controlling and eliminating toxic materials that are innate components of products such as cadmium or lead. Excessive levels of these toxic materials are hazards to health and the environment. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997)In implementing materials management, economic benefits accrue by incurring lesser cost in sourcing materials or product components through reuse instead of new procurements. At the same time, the value of materials and product components are harnessed optimally. There is also economic benefit in alleviating the risk of liabilities from toxic materials.

Environmental benefits include reduced accumulation of waste and lesser risk of soil, water and air contamination of toxic production. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997)Adopting materials management design enables hotels to achieve sustainability in terms of financial and economic benefits and environmental protection. To achieve effective materials management, hotels need to develop knowledge and acquire the necessary tools.

However, these comprise investments with returns accruing in the long-term.            Pollution prevention involves the elimination of processes in manufacturing that cause pollution. This requires change by redesigning the production process in a manner that prevents the accumulation of harmful by-products or the redesign of the finished products so there would be no use for processes that result in hazardous by-products. The prevention of pollution in production design exacts capital investments but the cost of redesign is deemed less when compared to the cumulative cost of controlling pollution, which would likely increase with new regulations imposing more active methods of pollution control.

(Billatos & Basaly, 1997)The economic benefits accruing from pollution prevention is the compliance cost for firms in not implementing this objective, liability cost for environmental damage, liability cost for health and safety obligations to employees. The environmental benefit would be a cleaner environment. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997) By investing in the redesign of its operations, hotels can achieve sustainability through cost savings, long-term returns on investment, and protection of the environment on which the business depends.            Product enhancement refers to the augmentation of the function or value of products or services by integrating features that minimize the generation of pollution and waste. Examples of product enhancement are energy saving appliances and fixtures such as fluorescent instead of incandescent lights or intelligent air conditioning systems that regulate room temperature depending on the presence of its occupant. The technological development of product enhancement innovations is escalating and promise greater functions for business establishments. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997)The economic benefit from utilizing product enhancement technologies is cost reduction and profit generation with the ability to offer products and services that meet the demands of the more aware market.

Environmental benefits involve the minimization of waste, pollution and resource use. (Billatos & Basaly, 1997) Utilizing product enhancement technologies influence the sustainability of hotels in terms of savings on operating cost, lesser pollution and waste in the built environment, and value creation for environmental conscious customers (Yaw, 2005). These benefits extend to the long-term and supporting the continuity of the provision of products and services by hotels.            Overall, green technology supports the sustainability of hotels by decreasing a wide range of economic and non-economic costs to support the financial viability of hotels in the long-term and conserving the natural environment on which the hospitality industry depends for the continuity of business. By adopting green technology, hotels gain processes and tools it can use to secure its sustainability.Green Technology Available to the Hotel Industry            The range of green technology available to the hotel industry encompasses different areas of concern by hotels, which are energy consumption, water consumption, waste and pollution reduction, and use of eco-friendly products (Edwards, 2004).

            A range of energy saving technologies is available to the hotel industry. These technologies could make hotels green buildings by targeting various areas for energy saving.One is electric heating pumps as alternatives to conventional electric boilers or condensing/non-condensing boilers requiring gas to run. The use of this green technology by a hotel in Hong Kong with a rooftop swimming pool showed a reduction in energy consumption by 26.5-32.5 MWh and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 kg. When computed over a ten-year period, using this technology would save the hotel HK$226,400 in energy cost savings. The hotel can earn back the cost of adopting this technology in two years.

(Chan & Lam, 2003)Another is the green roof technology with the option for an extensive or intensive design. The extensive design includes a waterproof roof, root barriers, and insulation supporting a thin layer of hardy plants. The intensive design uses a heavier roof to support more layers of vegetation that could extend to the walls.

Green roof systems reduce energy cost due to better insulation and roofing protection. This also improves water management by filtering storm water for use in its facilities. Pollution also declines. The cost for utilizing this technology includes the price of materials and maintenance.

This technology involves savings in energy cost of around 8.5 percent with a payback period of ten years. (Thomas & Thomas, 2003) Although this has lesser contribution in cost savings and a longer payback period, this involves non-measurable benefits for consumers such as providing added hotel attraction via a rooftop garden and a more attractive hotel infrastructure.Building designs able to harness alternative sources of energy comprise green technologies that support the sustainability of hotels.

Solar panels continue to gain function in energy saving for hotels (“Building in a green edge,” 2008) although the payback period is longer than expected, the energy saving potential extends to the long-term. The use of building designs that harness natural light such as skylight atriums that do not use artificial lighting during the day are also green alternatives for hotels (Kirby, 2009).            A range of technologies target energy savings in the kitchen, an area that consumes a lot of energy and produces pollution by-products. Induction cooking is a green technology that uses electricity to create a magnetic field stimulating atoms to create friction to cook food faster. The faster speed of cooking means lesser energy consumption. Rethermalization is another kitchen technology that enables hotel kitchens to cook large bulks of food and reheat these in a fast and efficient manner without affecting the overall quality of the food by controlling the heating temperature. The effective reheating system reduces energy consumption in using conventional heating methods. Cambria Suites and Hyatt Place are two population hotels exploring these technologies for their kitchens.

(Gale, 2009) There is limited data on the extent of energy savings by using these technologies or the payback period but these offer eco-friendly technologies for hotels. The uptake of these technologies should increase as hotels pioneering in adopting these technologies experience the benefits.Another direction of green technology for the kitchen is the reuse of exhaust heat from the kitchen by harnessing the heat from the exhaust or condensing hot air to produce steam for use in cooking. This is a means of recycling energy. However, this involves the integration of the design in the structure of the kitchen or the building itself, which means greater investment.

(Higgins, 2008) Nevertheless, further innovations in this technology could enhance practical value for hotels.            In other areas of hotels such as rooms and bathrooms, e-sensor systems and LED lights comprise green technology options. E-sensor systems apply to different systems such as lighting and air conditioning. The e-sensors have the capability to change automatically the lighting or air conditioning settings depending on the area of the room where there are people or temperature changes in the room. LED lights offer greater energy savings than fluorescent lights so this represents the third generation in lighting technology. (Kirby, 2008) Systems thinking in energy management comprise a promising green technology in saving on energy costs (Sobieski, 2008).These technologies are widely available and accessible to different hotels.

The energy saving is experienced in the short term and the payback period is shorted. The problem with this is hotel guests tampering with the system leading to added cost for repairs. This means that awareness and information dissemination are important for the effectiveness of these technologies.Another green technology for rooms is the biodegradable key cards. These have the same life span as the conventional key cards except that these are biodegradable or recyclable. (Gale, 2009) These require little cost with high environmental impact.

            Green technology for water consumption focuses on the integration of eco-friendly pipe designs with flow restrictors. This piping system limits the water that flow in bathroom faucets to a volume reasonable for the intended use such as washing hands or soaking in the bathtub. The restrictors come with a water control systems that calculate the flow of water for different pipes lines such as those leading to the baths or to faucets. Water recycling systems comprise another green technology for option for hotels.

This involves the placement of water treatment plants that recycle water used in baths for flushing in toilets. (Edwards, 2004) These comprise viable and accessible water conservation practices that would contribute savings on the cost of water to rationalize the consumption of water as a scarce resource.             Eco-friendly technologies targeting waste reduction and pollution minimization also comprise the technologies previously mentioned. Systems recycling exhaust from the kitchen minimize air pollution. Recyclable key cards reduce waste in landfills and pollution.

Green roofs minimize carbon dioxide emissions in the air with plants transforming this into oxygen. Recycling of water lessens wastewater dumped into the sewage system. All the other green technologies target either or both the reduction of waste and reduction of pollution. Waste segregation and recycling systems also comprise technological practices, because these involves knowledge, such as using reusable cutlery and menu management are also available to hotels.            Apart from LED lights and e-sensor systems, other green technology products available to hotels are LCD televisions that consume less energy, eco-friendly refrigerators that minimize CFC emissions, washing machines and dryers with reduced CFC emissions and use lesser energy, and kitchen implements that run on recycled energy or reduced electricity (Bentley, 2008).Role of Green Technology on Hotel Sustainability            Sustainability in hotels means two things. One is the conscious involvement of hotels in the protection of the environment since the nature of the business of the hospitality industry and the closely connected industries such as tourism heavily rely on the soundness of the natural and socio-cultural environment for business. Green technology plays the role of providing effective means for hotels to fulfill their obligation to the environment.

The other is the investment in environment protection in a manner that secures economic and financial as well as a range of non-monetary benefits for hotels in the long-term (Vermillion, 2008). The ability to generate income in the long term implies the likely continuity of the hotel in the future. Green technology provides the means through which hotels can reap economic and non-economic benefits to usher its continuity in the long-term. Eco-friendly technologies could also comprise sources of competitive advantage.            Global benchmarks of the extent that hotels are protecting the environment reflect upon the sustainability of hotels.

Greater adoption of appropriate green technology translates into a higher likelihood that the hotel would continue operating in the future. One benchmark is the existence of a sustainability policy. Investment in green technology forms part of the sustainability policy of hotels. Energy consumption is also a benchmark of the eco-friendliness of hotels. The range of energy saving technologies available to hotels supports the achievement of the sustainability policy of hotels. Water consumption is another benchmark of environmental concerns of hotels. The water conserving technologies provide the process and tools for hotels to achieve this benchmark. Waste and pollution management are also benchmarks of the ecological involvement of hotels.

Various green technologies enable hotels to minimize waste and pollutants. Resources conservation also measures the environmental commitment of hotels and green technologies enable hotels to prevent waste of resources and optimize the functional value of materials and components. (Sharma, 2004; Robertson, 2007) Green technology takes the role as an enabling process and tool for hotels to become sustainable.             Green technology could enable hotels to reap a wide range of benefits in the long-term by comprising a source of sustainable competitive advantage.

The hotel business is fiercely competitive and the hospitality industry highly saturated. With hotels competing to maintain its customer base and pull customers to shift to the hotel’s services, green technology could become an enabler for hotels to become competitive. Environmental conscious hotel customers comprise a niche market that is increasing in number. This means that the ability of hotels to become first movers in meeting the needs of this niche market would likely get a bigger market share (Porter, 1998). Apart from savings on operating cost for long periods, hotels end up increasing its market share, which then translates into sales in the long term. Apart from attracting the niche market of eco-friendly customer, green technology could also secure sustainable competitiveness to hotels through cost leadership and differentiation (Porter, 1998). This gives hotels a mixed source of competitive advantages, making the impact on future viability stronger. Investing in green technology enables hotels to significantly cutback on operating cost.

This enables hotels a wider profitability margin and room to offer promotional prices to attract more customers (Jones, 2002). This takes charge of cost as a source of competitive advantage. Green technology could also distinguish hotels from its competitors to add value to its products and services.

Selecting the appropriate green technology could comprise a differentiating factor for hotels (Dobin, 2008) Many hotels innovate on green technology to become pioneers of new eco-friendly systems to comprise a promotional factor for the hotel in support of sustainable competitiveness.Conclusion            Green technology has taken a central role in the sustainability of hotels. The concept of sustainability of hotels involves the aspects of environmental protection and business viability.Environmental protection determines sustainability because hotels depend on a healthy environment for its business to thrive. Many if not all hotels directly operate within tourist sites or collaborate with firms in the tourism industry to gain a market. Tourists are hotel customers. Environmental conservation is the key to the continuity of tourism and so would the operations of hotels in the long-term.The use of green technology also contributes to the viability of business firms in terms of financial standing and non-financial competencies in the long-term.

Going green attracts the niche market of environment enthusiasts that contribute to sales. Using the range of green technologies available would also result in savings from operating costs in the long-term, which increases the profit of hotels and gives them flexibility to invest in marketing activities.It is a sound strategy for hotels to consider green technology as a process and a collection of tools in support of sustainability goals.Reference ListBentley, R. (2008). Turn your chips green.

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